Archive for May, 2007

Jobs and Gates

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

I just spent the last hour and a half watching Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in a rare joint interview at a Wall Street Journal sponsored event in San Diego. It was time very well spent. Both participants take long, long pauses before answering questions, where you can almost see them thinking, “Who is my audience here?”, “Can I unleash our great new idea which is still secret?”, “How can I get the best advantage out of this?”

One selected quote:

Kara: Are you competitors? (About those commercials) I have to admit, I really like PC guy.

Steve: The art of those commercials isn’t to be mean, it’s for those guys to like each other. PC guy is great. PC guy is what makes it work! **Big laughs**

Bill: His mother loves him.

Jobs and Gates – Part 1/7
Jobs and Gates – Part 2/7
Jobs and Gates – Part 3/7
Jobs and Gates – Part 4/7
Jobs and Gates – Part 5/7
Jobs and Gates – Part 6/7

Jobs and Gates – Part 7/7
I have a long history with both Apple and Microsoft over the years. I worked in Russia from 1992 to 1995 as the principal Apple Salesperson in that opening environment.

With Microsoft, my best story is being at the Game Developers’ Conference in San Jose in 2000. That was the year that Microsoft launched the original Xbox. I was at dinner with some non-technical business partners at a nice Italian restaurant across the street from the Fairmount hotel. I don’t remember exactly what I was saying, but I was trashing Microsoft for some decisions they’d made with the Xbox and generally predicting that they’d be out of the market in a couple of years; and I was probably being pretty loud, as I normally am when being bombastic.

Anyway, the diners immediately behind us were getting up to leave and bumped into my chair as they were doing so. I turned around. Oh God. It was Bill Gates and his wife. I was soundly embarrassed. Thank God, the people I was meeting weren’t techies – they didn’t recognize Bill Gates and I was able to go on with the meeting. If they noticed I was quieter and less bombastic, they didn’t mention it.

In my mind, Steve Jobs/Apple has ushered in the bulk of the original thinking in the industry: Apple II, Macintosh, fonts, language support, iMac, Powerbook, OS X, iPod and the upcoming iPhone. But none of these things have come cheaply. They have all been marketed at a premium.

Bill Gates delivers software that replicates what Apple does, but at a much lower price point. PC hardware and software don’t work as well together, but they do work. Worldwide internet communication by the masses is a reality because of Bill Gates. Of these two people, he has both received the bigger paycheck and deserves it.

Guest Bloggers

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Last night, I gave my brother Chris a login and password so that he can make entries here as well. While I originally envisioned this site as a personal soapbox from which to speak, that vision is not carved in stone. “Open” is getting a moderate amount of traffic, and I’d love to see it become more popular and more used. Please contact me if you want to add your voice here.

In the future, if I want to have an unvarnished space for my own views, I can certainly create that. As can Chris. As you are able to do. However, I think turning “Open” into a cooperative venture might not be the worst idea in the world – I certainly don’t have a monopoly on opinion, interests or cute kid videos.


Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

I feel a bit like I just took a leap off a wall
into a vast pool of water.

Its a blog!

I am cr Steussy younger brother of the creator of this thing. I live and work in San Diego (actually I live in La Mesa about ten miles east of downtown where I work), and tomorrow and Friday I’m riding my bike in. Yeah bikes!

Evening entertainment hours?
10% reading to kids
10% games with kids
10% checking e-mail/blogs (thanks ed)
20% sitting on the porch chatting
20% making/cleaning up from dinner
10% getting ready to bed time
20% reading (just finished Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom) highly recommended.

I guess now there’ll be at least 5% trying to think of something useful to say.

Time Spent, Part 2

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Reflecting on an earlier post, I notice that the way I spend my entertainment hours is very much different today than it has been in the past. I don’t know if it’s indicative of every adult over the last ten years but, hey!, this is what’s happened to me.

Ten years ago, I was a single entrepreneur living in Los Angeles. My evening hours would be split something like this:

Reading: 45%
Restaurants/Bars/Dates/Movies/Social: 30%
Videogames: 20%
TV (no Tivo): 5%

Five years ago, I was still in Los Angeles, married with no kids. The vast majority of my entertainment time was spent with my wife, which changed things dramatically.

TV/Tivo: 45%
Movies/Entertaining/Restaurants/Social: 25%
Reading: 20%
Videogames: 10%

Today, we have two kids and live on the far fringes of Los Angeles. Again, things have changed.

Videogames (Social?): 35%
TV: 35%
Reading: 20%
Movies/Parties/Social: 10%

The big change here is the advent of World of Warcraft (WoW). Every evening after putting the kids to bed, we log into WoW. If we find friends or family online, we play for hours. If not, then after a few quick activities we turn to whatever TiVo has recorded for us.


Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

I can’t imagine writing a biography. After all, a person’s whole life is such a large, amorphous body of information, data, events, influences, and ambitions, only by focusing on a few selected items can the author create a theme or a firm impression of an individual. Sometimes, the author throws away parts of his subject’s life which would seem central to any outside observer.

The most aggregious example from recent memory is American Prometheus, the biography of Robert Oppenheimer. By ignoring virtually anything associated with science or research, Martin Sherwin was able to concentrate only on the political and personal issues of Oppenheimer’s life, emphasizing his role as a martyr to McCarthy-era machinations. It’s not to say that Oppenheimer was not a martyr for 1950’s scare politics, but I sorely missed any reference to the science that Oppenheimer himself would undoubtedly want his life associated with.

Martin Sherwin spent 25 years working on this opus, and interviewed a vast range of people from Oppenheimer’s life. I believe he was simply deluged with data, and had to have a central thesis to wrap his book around. It is certainly clearly written, painstakingly researched and the heart of the author is there for all to see. Nonetheless, it is not a book to recommend to anyone with an interest in Oppenheimer as a scientist.

Anthony Everitt has written two biographies where the quantity and quality of data simply would not lead him to the same problem. There is not enough information about the lives of Cicero or Augustus to cherry-pick the data in the way that Sherwin does with Oppenheimer. Cicero was the best book I read in 2003, in large part because Everitt used his time and space to paint a more full picture of life in first century BCE Rome than any I have even seen before. He had to, in light of the paucity of real data about his subject.

With Augustus, Everitt has significantly more data to work with and uses most of the length of the book filling in details of his subject. There is less general information about the historical setting, and it makes this book somewhat less interesting than Cicero. Everitt’s central thesis is that Augustus was a great politicial personality, ingratiating himself to the Roman people and Senate in a time of Civil War in order to gain their voluntary acceptance as the first Emperor of Rome. Even Everitt points out, in the last chapter of the book, that this might not be an accurate summation. It’s hard to know, since most sources on his life are not contemporary, but written 50 to 100 years after his death and it would be difficult to separate the “spin” from facts.

The book simply shines broadly in one particular area. In most of the history that I have studied or read, the time from the death of Casear in 44 BCE to the battle of Actium in 31 BCE is glossed over, with some general reference made to the confusing time of Civil War. Everitt’s Augustus attacks this era head-on, devoting more than half of the length of the book to a detailed description of a wide range of ever-changing events as Augustus sees them.

It is a tribute to Everitt that he is able to make this work. He walks the reader through each of the treacheries, back-stabs and revolts in vivid detail; giving each of the individuals understandable motiviations and reasons for doing the things that they do. And he does this without needlessly confusing the reader–I only caught myself re-reading passages once or twice to make sure I understood the double- and triple-crossing going on.

After the whirlwind of intense political intrigue carefully presented in those 150 or 200 pages, the remainder of Augustus’ life is a poor tale of family trouble with wives and nephews and stepsons that seems lackluster.

Its a massive and heroic work, by any measure. It only falls flat in that the intensity of the Civil War discourse simply can’t be continued into Augustus’ later life.

Cicero, by Anthony Everitt
Augustus, by Anthony Everitt
American Prometheus, by Martin Sherwin

Time Spent

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Found this on an NPR Marketplace Report. One of those nuggets of information that seems so correct and essential, but hides behind noisier chatter on news outlets.

CD sales are down, more than 20% below last year and looking to fall even faster, further decimating the music industry. TV viewership is down, hurting the network broadcasters. Newspaper circulation way down. Is it the Internet? Is it piracy? Not really. It’s simply a lack of time to enjoy all the different forms of entertainment available to Americans in the early 21st century.

From Aaron Pressman’s Businessweek blog:

Ironically, given all the complaining that the Motion Picture Association of America does about piracy, my entire “it’s just that simple” thesis is spelled out in the back pages of very informative research report that the group issued on the state of the 2005 U.S. entertainment industry.

If you flip near the back to page 51, you’ll see a table of how many hours a year the average consumer “spends” on various forms of commercial entertainment. In the four years from 2001 to 2005, overall time spent on these pursuits rose to 3,482 hours per person from 3,356 hours, about a 4% increase. But that didn’t benefit all forms of entertainment equally. Here’s a table I’ve created from the MPAA report showing the change in hours per person spent by activity:

Cable and satellite TV +125
Consumer Internet +52
Home video +29
Broadcast and satellite radio +26
Wireless content +15
Video games +12

Consumer books 0

Movies (at the theater) -1
Consumer magazines -3
Daily newspapers -14
Recorded music -50
Broadcast TV -65

You get the same picture when you look at the average dollars spent by entertainment consumers (from a chart on page 53). Overall spending per person rose to $890.77 a year from $675.35, a healthy 32% increase. Spending on television (cable, video on demand etc) plus home video (DVDs) soaked up more than half of the total increase. Throw in Internet spending and you’ve accounted for 90%. No surprise then that spending on newspapers and recorded music actually declined.

Lawn Sprinklers

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

No real entry today. Uncle Chris came to visit, with Tia Norma and the cousins, Bela and Calvin. Uncle Chris gave me pointers on how to manage a lawn sprinkling system, we fixed things, bought new things, tested things, drank Stone Brewery beer from a growler, ate hamburgers from our new super-powered grill and all was good. Nothing to say today. It was a good day.

San Diego Zoo – Flying!

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

Finally! Got the video edited from our trip on Thursday.

The Quicktime version is here. It is much better quality.

Friday before Memorial Day

Friday, May 25th, 2007

I’d originally planned on putting up a video of our trip to the San Diego Zoo on Thursday, but domestic responsibilities meant that I had no time to do the editing. We’re all used to endless hours of professionally edited and scored television and movies (and a lot of YouTube as well), so it may come as a surprise that even trying to do a reasonable job is extremely difficult and slow work.

Someone once told me to assume 10 minutes of editing for every minute of on-air video, and I now think that is the least amount of time that I have spent on any of my videos. Clipping only the best bits together, retiming them so they make sense, removing audio where it is inappropriate, trying to make appropriate audio reasonably understandable (particularly when most of my victims, err, subjects are small children) takes time and attention to detail.

The video below is from my son’s fourth birthday. It has a playing time of 8 minutes. It easily took more than four hours to create, and still has a lot of things I would like to fix. But, hey, it’s published, the parents of the kids like it (usually an easy crowd, myself included), and I really like the soundtrack I overlaid (The Mummers’ Dance by Loreena McKennitt).

Funniest Line Today

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

From Serenity, the movie based on the Firefly universe. I haven’t seen it yet. Scene is the cockpit of a spacecraft coming in for a landing.

Wash: This landing is gonna get pretty interesting.

Mal: Define “interesting”.

Wash: [deadpan] Oh God, oh God, we’re all going to die?

Mal: [On Intercom] This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then – explode.